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Cutting Edge Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer

written by: Vikas Vij • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/26/2011

Cutting edge treatments for pancreatic cancer are used to produce more effective results. Several surgical procedures, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are the key treatment options. Some patients may also participate in ongoing clinical trials for pancreatic cancer.

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    Treating Cancer of the Pancreas

    A few cutting edge treatments for pancreatic cancer are available today along with the standard treatment procedures. The choice of treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor, and the patient’s medical status. Various clinical trials to treat pancreatic cancer are also underway, and patients with an advanced stage of cancer may consider taking part in such trials.

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    Surgical Treatment Options

    The operating surgeons may go for the Whipple surgical procedure which involves the removal of a portion of the stomach, a portion of the small intestine, the gallbladder, the bile duct and the top of the pancreas. The major portion of the pancreas is left intact so that it can continue to perform its basic functions. But in case of advanced pancreatic cancer, the surgeon may decide to go for total removal of the pancreas in addition to the lymph nodes and the spleen.

    Another surgical procedure is distal pancreatectomy that involves removal of the tail of the pancreas and the spleen. If the cancer has metastasized, the surgeon may consider a biliary bypass surgery to reduce the symptoms. This surgery helps to create passage for the small intestine if it is being blocked by the tumor. Endoscopic placement of stent may be performed if the tumor is blocking the bile duct. Gastric bypass surgery is another option that can be used if the tumor is obstructing the food flow from the stomach.

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    Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy

    Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used individually or in combination for pancreatic cancer. Sometimes it may not be possible to remove the entire cancerous tissue from the pancreas surgically. In such condition, radiation or chemotherapy may be used as adjuvant therapies to kill the remaining cancer cells. These treatments may also be necessary if the cancer has already spread beyond the pancreas and it is not possible to remove it surgically. External or internal radiation therapies may be used depending on the type and stage of pancreatic cancer.

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    New Cutting Edge Treatments for Pancreatic Cancer

    A number of new treatments are being tested for pancreatic cancer and some treatments are under testing through clinical trials. One such treatment is Biologic therapy that involves the patient’s immune system in its fight against pancreatic cancer. This therapy makes use of the natural substances produced in the body or produced in a lab with an aim to reinforce the body’s natural defense mechanism against pancreatic cancer. This treatment is also known as immunotherapy.

    Stage III and Stage IV pancreatic cancers may also be treated with a combination of anti-cancer agents with or without chemotherapy. Some of these treatments may involve participation in clinical trials. Stage IV pancreatic cancer treatment may include chemotherapy with gemcitabine, which may also be combined with erlotinib. Nerve blockers may be administered for pain relief, and stent placements may be done to bypass areas obstructed by the pancreatic tumor.